Mmm…double starch

The Kid has never been a picky eater. Beets, bananas, and fish sticks are a few of the small list of items that shall not pass my child’s lips.

And there are two one-pot main dishes that are on the no-fly list.  One is a recipe I got from my friend and former boss, Bosco.  It’s a rice, chick pea and hamburger skillet.

The other dish is the scratch-made version of a treat with both rice and short spaghetti shards one might find in San Francisco.  I’ve made it for years; I’ve even written about it before, but the last time I made it, I added a new ingredient. It’s a trick America’s Test Kitchen uses when making quick versions of slow-cooked dishes.  At first blush, it seems like one of those internet hacks that sound like a life-changing miracle, but when actually attempted leaves you with regret, frustration, a wine-stained shoe, a broken bottle, and glass shards embedded in your forehead.

It’s unflavored gelatin.See?  I told you it sounded bizarre.

But hear me out.  When you cook meats very slowly, the collagen eventually dissolves.  That’s what lends the unctuous mouth feel to things like brisket or ribs.  Gelatin’s a protein which comes from collagen.

I’ll never make this without gelatin again; it’s perfect in this dish, or any dish that needs a little silkiness.

San Francisco Cheat-2.0rice a roni1 pound 80/20 ground beef

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 pound mushrooms, sliced

2 teaspoons rosemary, chopped finely

1 teaspoon dry thyme

1 ¾ cups long grain rice

1-7 ounce bag fideo noodles (found in grocery stores’ Hispanic section)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

½ cup sherry or red wine

1 ½ cups thawed shoe peg corn

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin

½ cup cold water

Salt and pepper

For broth, whisk together:roni broth

4 cups beef stock

2 teaspoons horseradish

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Splash of mushroom or dark soy

3 bay leaves

Bloom gelatin: stir together gelatin powder and ½ cup cold water.  Set aside.  It will harden into gelled disk.

Turn large heavy pot with lid to medium-high.  Break ground beef into thumb-size pieces and drop into pan.  Season.  Let cook undisturbed until the portion touching the bottom of the pot browns and gets a little crust. 

When the meat is browned all over, remove meat from pan and set aside.  Pour out all but about a tablespoon or so of the fat left.

Add mushrooms, onions, rosemary and thyme.  Cook until liquid has cooked out and veg are caramelized.

Stir in fideo and rice.  Cook, stirring frequently until the rice and pasta have browned a bit.  Stir in tomato paste and let cook for a few minutes. 

Pour in sherry or wine, scraping up any bits on pot bottom.  Let cook until pan is dry.

Pour in broth and put gelatin disk into pot.  Stir until melted and liquid comes to a boil.  Add back the ground beef and stir in corn.  Turn down heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 17-20 minutes or the broth has completely cooked in. Remove from heat, leave covered, and let sit for 15 minutes before serving.  Top each serving with a pat of butter and some snipped chives if desired. 

Serves 6-8.

As far as savory gelatin goes, this beats the pants off those crazy aspics from the fifties, with tomato jello studded with celery, pimento-stuffed olives, and shrimp.

But for the love of Mike, why, oh, why, would they do that to perfectly innocent food and their digestive tracks?Thanks for your time.

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